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When looking for the term "loving" on SpanishDict.com, it gives two different words that seem to translate the same. However the examples show different applications. Is there a difference between amoroso and cariñoso? If so, what are the applications for each?

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  • cariñoso is affectionate, as an good dictionary will tell you.
    – Lambie
    Mar 22 at 15:02
  • @Lambie it also shows loving as an alternate definition. Likewise, amoroso shows affectionate as an alternate definition. I knew there was a distinction, but I needed clarification.
    – Timberwolf
    Mar 24 at 16:07
  • cariño is affection or tenderness, not loving. amor is love, and amoroso is loving. So, I dunno what dictionaries you are using. I suggest the Larousse Spanish - English, which you will find under Larousse Espagnol - Anglais. If cariñoso is used to mean to take care of someone with loving care, for example, then, yes, it is loving but not on its own.
    – Lambie
    Mar 24 at 16:42
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The DLE is not very helpful in this case. It says for cariño:

  1. m. Inclinación de amor o buen afecto que se siente hacia alguien o algo.

But the examples on SpanishDict go in the right direction: the word amor describes a much stronger feeling, and is most often used for romantic love or sometimes for the love between a parent and a child, as shown in the first example of the DLE's entry for amoroso ("Padre amoroso").

The word cariño refers to love and affection in a broader sense and a less strong way: it may describe the love between a parent and a child, but it also often describes affection between friends.

In my experience, the adjective amoroso describes a person who feels intense love (regardless of how they show it), while the adjective cariñoso refers to a person who often shows their affection or love, for example by hugging. This last paragraph comes with the usual disclaimer that this may be a regional thing (Spain) and it might be different in other regions.

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To add to Wimi's reply as to the difference between both adjectives when they accompany the noun, which is based on the distinction between "amor" and "cariño", the adjective "amoroso" can also be said of somebody who is lovable, that is, who arouses a feeling of tenderness, or who has nice and kind gestures.

Instead, "cariñoso" is used to mean "affectionate".

If you say:

  • ¡Qué amoroso!

you mean that the person is nice or kind, and arouses your positive sentiment towards him or her.

Instead, saying:

  • ¡Qué cariñoso!

is a statement that the other person shows affection towards others.

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